Blitzes deliver crushing blows to West Virginia offense

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia (5-2, 1-1 Big East Conference) will bear down this week to handle the blitz better, coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday. It is a critical need with another aggressive defense coming up in Rutgers.

Syracuse laid out the blueprint of how to get quarterback Geno Smith and his offense off their trademark rhythm in a 49-23 rout Friday night at Carrier Dome.

Holgorsen said not only did Syracuse blitz 75 percent of the time, but 16 of the first 24 blitzes were different.

"Blitzing 75 percent of the time is a lot, and I haven't faced that personally," Holgorsen said. "I've been on a lot of teams that handle blitzes better, and you make them pay for it. We want them to blitz because that means there's less space behind them at the line of scrimmage. If we identify it and do a good job of handling it, we could easily have scored more than 49 points."

  • Game: No. 25 West Virginia (5-2, 1-1 Big East) at Rutgers (5-2, 2-1), Piscataway, N.J.
  • When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
  • TV: WTAE or ESPN2.

He said the offense sat down to watch every play and was shown how to attack the blitz in each scenario. Up next is Rutgers (5-2, 2-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, a team that also has an aggressive defense.

The Scarlet Knights lead Division I-A with 25 forced turnovers, have sacked quarterbacks 24 times and are expected to blitz as much as the Orange did.

"We're going to get it a lot the rest of the year," offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said.

"It's your pride. It's gonna get tested this week. We'll see how they respond. Like I told our guys, we got outworked. They wanted to get to the quarterback more than we wanted to block them."

Smith was sacked four times, hurried into passes, and threw two untimely interceptions. Holgorsen said the blame does not go straight to Smith, the offensive line, receivers or coaching staff -- but a little bit goes all around.

"It's everybody," he said. "One of the biggest problems with what was happening was when they brought pressure our offensive line just got whipped. That goes back to who was playing harder.

"It was very evident to me on tape that they were playing much, much harder than we were, which was disturbing. That's one area of it. Calling plays is another. Geno getting the ball out of his hands is another, receivers adjusting routes ... and making plays downfield is something we've talked about for a long time."

Poor performance

Receivers coach Shannon Dawson did not mince words when asked about the performance from his receivers against Syracuse.

"Embarrassing. I don't know what else to say. I could go into it for a while, but it might've been one of the most embarrassing games ever that I've been associated with," said Dawson.

"I think it's a combination of things. They wanted it a little more. They strained their bodies more than we did."

No opinion

When asked about the team's pending move to the Big 12, Holgorsen said he has had no dealings with the administration about conference realignment.

"If I had an opinion, I don't even know who I'd call. If I call Oliver Luck and [president James Clements], they'd probably laugh at me and say 'You need to worry about Rutgers,' which is 100 percent true."

Graduation rates

West Virginia is graduating 80 percent of its athletes, the university reported, the highest percentage since 1995. Over the four-year period in the study, the football team graduated 75 percent of its players, ranking in the middle of the pack.

Volleyball and women's tennis graduated 100 percent.


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